I am coming a bit late to this interesting thread which was started by Bill Waller's request for help in finding where Veblen used the phrase "social provisioning" to describe the subject of economic inquiry.   It is worthwhile, I think, to recognize that it was when Gary Becker and his army of post-WWII neoclassical true believers began to advocate for "economic imperialism" that the emphasis on provisioning as the appropriate focus of Economics came to be seen as clearly of great importance in a number of areas, including Feminist Economics, some parts of Economic Sociology, Economic Anthropology, and, of course the Original Institutional Economics.  Polanyi's 1944 book, THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION also focussed attention on the contrast between the "substantivist" (provisioning) and "formalist" definitions of Economics. 


Looking backward it is important and interesting to see that Veblen used social provisioning to define Economics and is further evidence of the depth of his understanding of the barriers that would stand in the way of making economics a truly evolutionary and scientific discipline.  It is also interesting that Gruchy, whose use of provisioning has been noted,was in front of the post-WWII formalists when he recognized the dangers of the Marshallian elements of Keynesian economics that were unwittingly being accepted by Institutionalists who found compatability between aspects of  OIE macroeconomics and the Keynesianism of the late 40s and 1950s.  


The importance of the provisioning definition is brought into sharp relief by Roger Backhouse and Steve Medema in an article entitled "Defining Economics: The Long Road to Acceptance of the Robbins Definition" that was published in ECONOMICA in 2009 (vol. 26).   


--Anne


From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of BILL and PAULY DUGGER <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2018 7:18:28 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [AFEEMAIL] query about provisioning
 
Holy Cow Batman, this thread on the definition of economics as the study of the social provisioning process has turned out to be very instructive. I hope somebody writes it up for publishing in the Journal of Record for Institutional Economics. Anybody around here know the incoming editor of said journal? 
William M. Dugger
Professor of Economics



From: Justin Elardo <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2018 3:46 PM
Subject: Re: query about provisioning

Thanks Mat,

Super informative.

Justin A. Elardo, PhD



From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Forstater, Mathew <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2018 7:26 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: query about provisioning
 
beginning in the late 50s, early 60s, Robert Heilbroner began using "material provisioning" "social provisioning" and "economic provisioning" somewhat interchangeably. During the 60s-80s he used in in more than 3-4 textbooks and numerous articles. The vision, if not the term, was adopted by Heilbroner from Adolph Lowe, who had given a series of lectures at LSE in the 1930s when Robbins and Hayek were in the audience, and Lowe specifically took on the definition of economics put forward by Robbins in his famous book on the Nature and Significance, which became the mainstream textbook definition of allocating scarce resources among competing ends. Gruchy was a big admirer of both Lowe and Heilbroner, who were both Veblen-Commons awardees.  No mention of Heilbroner in the recent contributions promoting the term "social provisioning" for example in the Fred Lee and John Henry tribute books, although in his autobiographical piece Fred mentions the first book he read was the Worldly Philosophers and the first classes he took were at the New School, where both Lowe and Heilbroner still were at that time.  of course, they never claimed that this idea of economics was original, but could be found in the classical economists, Marx, Veblen, and other "Worldly Philosophers". The non-debate about material vs. social seems to me to be largely based on definitions of material that are not very helpful.  material as only referring to sphere of money and markets or even material as in "materialistic" or even the association of "material" and "physical".  the important part is the "provisioning" part, in contrast to the Robbins definition. just a few places where Heilbroner used "social provisioning":

Heilbroner, Robert L., 1963, The World of Economics, No. 5, Published by the American Library Association in cooperation with the Public Affairs Committee, Inc.
 
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1966, “Is Economic Theory Possible?,” Social Research, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 272-294.
 
p. 278 – “social provisioning”
 
 
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1968, The Making of Economic Society, Prentice-Hall.
 
p. 100
 
Heilbroner, Robert, 1979, “Modern Economics as a Chapter in the History of Thought,” History of Political Economy, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 192-198.
 
“Social provisioning”, “material provisioning”, “physical and social structure of the provisioning process” (1979, p. 194)
 
 
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1983, “The Problem of Value in the Constitution of Economic Thought,” Social Research, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 253-277.
 
p. 254
 
Heilbroner, Robert L., 1995, “Putting Economics in its Place,” Social Research, Vol. 62, No. 4, pp. 883-897.
 
“Art, culture, civil society, or good government may be the most highly regarded social achievements, but they all rest on a foundation of social provisioning without which none of them could long endure.” (1995, p. 884)
 
 
Heilbroner, Robert L., and Lester Thurow, 1982, Economics Explained, Prentice-Hall.
 
p. 20
 
 
Heilbroner, Robert L., and Lester Thurow, 1981, The Economic Problem, Prentice-Hall.
 
pp. 31, 42
 

Mathew Forstater
UMKC

From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of erik dean <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2018 12:32:56 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [AFEEMAIL] query about provisioning
 
I might be thinking of something else, but I think it was Gruchy who coined the term.  Not sure if Veblen used it.  I want to say that you can find a definition of economics in Veblen's Prof. Clark's Economics or The Limitations of Marginal Utility, but I don't recall exactly where or what it was.  Well, perhaps that's of some help...

On Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 8:02 AM, Waller, William <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Does anyone know off hand where Veblen defines economics as the study of social provisioning?

Alas, I am away from home and my library.

Bill

William Waller
Helen Cam Visiting Fellow
Girton College
Cambridge University
Cambridge, CB3 0JG
and
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Economics
Director of Wine Studies
Department of Economics
300 Pulteney Street
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, New York  14456-3397

Phone: 315 781-3433
Fax:     315 781-3422
email:  [log in to unmask]<mailto:waller@ hws.edu>
    [log in to unmask]<mailto:wtw22@ cam.ac.uk>



--
Erik Dean, Ph. D.
Instructor of Economics, Portland Community College

Research Scholar, Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity
Portland, OR 97203